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Distinguishing between Experienced Utility and Remembered Utility


Adam Oliver

Subject Keywords: Public Health Ethics
Catalogue: Systematic Reviews
Type: Article
Region: Europe

In his 2015 book, Valuing Health, the philosopher, Daniel Hausman, in referring to experienced utility maximization, touches on the question of whether people accept, and ought to accept, the assumption of health maximization vis-à-vis their own lives. This essay introduces Hausman’s arguments on experienced utility, before outlining the intellectual catalyst for the renewed interest in the maximization of experienced utility as an appropriate ethical rule; namely, the literature that arose in the 1990s that demonstrated that due to the so-called gestalt characteristics (e.g. the heavy emphasis that people place on how moments in an experience are ordered), an individual’s retrospective and prospective assessments of an event—i.e. the remembered and decision utilities associated with that event—often systematically differ from the utility that he/she experiences or can reasonably expect to experience during the same event. The essay then touches upon some of the implications that this debate has on assuming that the maximization of quality-adjusted life years is the best way to judge the relative worth of different health profiles. To conclude, it is argued that, although contextual, it is sometimes important to consider in the policy discourse the apparent effects of the gestalt characteristics on remembered and decision utility.



Rights: © Public
Suggested citation:

Adam Oliver. (2016) Distinguishing between Experienced Utility and Remembered Utility [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 7th April 2020].


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